Lists

Joshua 15:20-24 NKJV

This  was  the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families: The cities at the limits of the tribe of the children of Judah, toward the border of Edom in the South, were Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, Ziph, Telem, Bealoth,…

Imagine you are sitting at a big gathering where someone is talking about the history of your state or country. As the speaker talks of local towns and villages, you recognize the names of places you know: the town where you grew up, your mother’s home town, the village near the big lake where you fish sometimes, the city where your uncle gave his life saving someone from a fire. They are the landmarks of your family’s life, and you know that land like the back of your hand. You know the turns in the road from one town to the next, and you know the shortcut through a friend’s field to get to that hill or that village. You have heard stories about recent history–who married whom, what school won a championship, what businesses have opened and closed in your lifetime. But you may not know the history of how your town was founded.

And then the speaker tells you that all these local towns–one-hundred-fifteen of them he mentions by name–were given to your forebears by God Himself as an inheritance, because He loves you and your people above all others.

Kind of changes your perspective, doesn’t it?

Read chapter 15 of Joshua, and you will see a very detailed description of the borders of the land given to the tribe of Judah, and you will see a list of one-hundred-fifteen towns and cities that they claimed for the Lord. They weren’t able to do it simply by sheer might of arms. (Check out the first loss at Ai earlier in Joshua.) They did it with the help of God, because God had promised that land to Abraham many generations before. The Lord brought His people out of slavery and into a land “overflowing with milk and honey.” He brought them back to the inheritance He wished them to have.

And to a Hebrew living in the few generations after Moses, or even to a Jew living in Jesus’ time, the names of those towns and those landmarks would have been very familiar. Someone hearing those words would have finally understood that the house where they lived was not built by his or her father, but it was given to them by the Lord God. People in those times would have heard the names of the tribes and families listed so meticulously in Numbers and Nehemiah, and they would say, “That’s MY family!” There would be a remarkable sense of place, and a peace in knowing that God cared (and DOES care) specifically for them.

When we read our Bibles and we get to those difficult lists of kings and cities and tribes, we often roll our eyes and sigh dejectedly. We grit our teeth and skim through the names, never really bothering to try pronouncing them. But “reading” that way does a disservice to the Word of God. It is as if we are saying there is some part of God’s Holy Bible that doesn’t apply to us. If it did not apply, they why has God preserved the names of those people and places for thousands of years? God wants us to read these things and to know that His promise to us is specific and personal.


John 11:25-26 NKJV

Jesus said to her, “I am  the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

And then Jesus walked up to the tomb of Lazarus–one man among the many Jesus had known–and called out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And one man rose from the dead as proof that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

So the next time you are reading one of those long lists of names, don’t enter into it with dread but with joy. Look at it as a celebration of the promises of God, a reminder that throughout history He has cared for His people wherever they may be. We should read those lists of cities or kings or families with humility and awe, knowing that, if we believe on Jesus as Savior and Lord, then we are recorded that same way in the Book of Life itself, where one day our Lord will read OUR names and ask us to enter into His eternal presence.

Heavenly Lord God, what a precious gift you have given us to inherit eternal life! Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your holy Word. Help us to treat every word of Your Bible with reverence and love. Amen.

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About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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